(Recasts to add details on gunman's trip, contacts with
By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON Dec 13 A North Carolina man who
opened fire in a Washington pizzeria that fake news reports
claimed was operating a child sex ring had planned the raid for
days and tried to rally friends to the attack, according to
federal court documents filed on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors took over the case against Edgar
Maddison Welch, 28, charging him with violating U.S. gun laws
when he drove from his home in Durham, North Carolina, armed
with an AR-15 assault rifle, handgun and shotgun with plans to
investigate the Comet Ping Pong restaurant.
He said he had been drawn to it after reading fake online
news stories about the "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory, which
falsely said that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton was running a pedophilia ring out of the pizzeria.
No one was injured when Welch fired his rifle inside the
crowded Washington pizzeria on the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 4.
Welch had begun reaching out to friends three days earlier,
urging them to watch a YouTube video about the alleged
conspiracy and seeking a volunteer to come along, asking if a
friend was "down for the cause?" according to the documents.
When his friend, who was not identified in court papers,
asked what he meant, Welch replied, "Raiding a pedo ring,
possibly sacraficing (sic) the lives of a few for the lives of
many ... The world is too afraid to act and I'm too stubborn not
As he drove the 260 miles (418 km) to Washington from his
home, Welch made a cell phone video for his two children,
telling them he loved them and hoped to be able to tell them
"And if not, don't ever forget it," he said, according to
In a brief court appearance on Tuesday, Welch told a
magistrate he had no job, no home, some college education and
less than $10.
The federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm
with intent to commit an offense, filed on Tuesday, carries a
maximum prison sentence of 10 years. It supersedes lower-court
charges, which prosecutors dropped.
Welch's mother, Terri Welch, told reporters outside Superior
Court that her son was not mentally ill.
The "Pizzagate" stories were an example of a proliferation
of phony stories during the U.S. election cycle, often
disseminated through websites that purported to be news outlets.
The stories about Comet Ping Pong prompted threats against
the business and its employees.
(Additional reporting by Tom Ramstack; Editing by Scott Malone
and Dan Grebler)